Meet India’s oldest MLA at 92, Shamanur Shivashankarappa of Karnataka

The industrialist and sports enthusiast owns a cricket club, uses a helicopter for regular commutes and runs a string of educational institutions

Shamanur Shivashankarappa (photo courtesy @DvgShamanurS/Twitter)
Shamanur Shivashankarappa (photo courtesy @DvgShamanurS/Twitter)

Harihar Swarup

Davangere in Central Karnataka is known for its lips-smacking “benne dose” (butter dosa) and, of course, Shamanur Shivashankarappa.

The 92-year-old Congress leader became India’s oldest MLA on May 13 after being elected MLA for the sixth time from Devangere South. He defeated BJP candidate and former Mayor B G Ajay Kumar by a margin of 27,888 votes. Shivashankarappa will be entering the assembly along with son S.S Mallikarjun, a two-time MLA from Devangere North.

Former Kerala Chief Minister, V.S Achuthanandan, who turned 100 this year, was the oldest MLA in the country till he retired from electoral politics in 2021 following a cerebral stroke. Before him, there was Nripen Chakraborty, one of the founders of the communist movement in Tripura. Chakraborty, who was Chief Minister for 10 years, served as an MLA till he was 93.

Born on June 16, 1931, to Savithramana and Shamanur Kallappa, Shivashankarappa studied up to the intermediate level, but he built a huge business empire, comprising multiple industries and educational institutions. He serves as head of the Bapuji Educational Association and the Shamanur group of industries. An avid sports lover, he is the honorary president of the Devangere Cricket and Sports club and owns the Shaman Davangere Diamonds Cricket team.

A member of the Congress since 1969, Shivashankarappa is one of the few leaders in Karnataka, who uses helicopters as a regular mode of travel.

Shivashankarappa’s informal style of politics endears him to the voters. This time, he moved in the narrow lanes of his constituency on an electric buggy. His three daughters-in-law went on a door-to-door campaign to woo the women voters. “Appaji bought Covid vaccines worth Rs. six crores even before the government gave free vaccines. The SS hospital provided free dialysis, cataract operations and maternity services,” said one of his granddaughter-in-law.

These days, he can barely walk unassisted and his voice has become feeble, but he overcomes such challenges with his wit and humour. When a reporter asked him about being a chief ministerial aspirant, he quipped, “Who does not want to be chief minister? I am the head of a huge network of institutions and I know how to run the system. I can make Karnataka corruption free.”

In June 2021, when there were murmurs about BJP replacing B.S Yediyurappa as Chief Minister, Shivashankarappa, who is President of the all-India Veerashaiva Mahasabha, came out in support of the fellow Lingayat. He said the government’s priority should be tackling Covid-19 and not replacing the chief minister.

When Lingayat leaders were unwilling to take a stand on the sexual abuse case involving the head of the Murugharajebra Mutt, Shivashankarappa did not mince words. “We have reached a stage where women need to be cautious while visiting the Swamijis,” he told a meeting.

(IPA Service)

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